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From Spreadsheets to Firewalls: My Unexpected Journey into Cybersecurity

Many see tech careers as a straight shot from college coding classes to Silicon Valley giants. But for me, the path was more like a winding road trip, full of unexpected detours and hidden gems.

The Journey Begins

My journey began in the world of finance, armed with a degree in Economics. It was a comfortable path, but a nagging feeling persisted – a yearning for something more stimulating, a field where I could make a real impact. This internal compass led me to the idea of a career change. However, the tech industry seemed like a foreign land, a place where everyone spoke a different language and possessed an innate coding genius. My background amplified these doubts – surely, transitioning from finance to cybersecurity required a complete do-over, a return to school for another degree.

The Shift

Fueled by a desire for growth, I decided to take a leap of faith. Quitting my stable job, I embarked on a mission of self-discovery. I enrolled in personal development programs, eager to challenge my perspective and build the confidence to navigate this new territory. One program, S.T.E.P. by Spurt!, proved to be a pivotal moment. It pushed me outside my comfort zone, encouraging me to tackle challenges head-on. This focus on personal
growth wasn’t just about developing “hard skills” like coding; it was about building the resilience and mindset needed to thrive in any field. During a career review call, I was asked about my career aspirations. I hesitated, feeling my ambitions were mere dreams and unrealistic. I finally expressed my interest in Cybersecurity, viewing it as a long-term goal. The program founder’s response was a turning point. “It doesn’t have to be long-term,” she said, her words filled with encouragement. Suddenly, the seemingly daunting barrier became a reachable goal. This simple phrase instilled in me a sense of empowerment and possibility.

Lessons Learned

This experience highlighted three key lessons:

  1. Speak Up: Your voice matters. Had I remained silent, I wouldn’t have discovered the support and guidance that propelled me forward.
  2. The Power of Words: Encouraging words can light a fire. The program founder’s belief in me fueled my determination.
  3. Hard Work Pays Off: Success requires dedication and effort. There’s no shortcut to mastering a new skill set.
    Following this, I began delving deeper into cybersecurity. Weekly reports on the topic became a springboard for learning, igniting a passion I hadn’t experienced before. While finance held its own appeal, cybersecurity offered a unique blend of challenge, intellectual stimulation, and the potential to make a real difference in the world.

Practical Skills and Resources

Forget the myth of the straight shot to a tech giant, especially in Africa. Here, the tech journey is more like an adventure, filled with detours and discoveries. Limited resources can make adaptability and resourcefulness key to success.
The good news? You don’t need a fancy degree to get started. There are tons of free resources available. For hands-on practice in cybersecurity, platforms like Try Hack Me, Hack the Box and Let’s Defend were game-changers for me.
But theory matters too. Websites like OWASP Foundation, MITRE, Microsoft Documentation, and various blogs have been beneficial. Don’t forget YouTube – it’s a treasure trove of knowledge on nearly any tech topic!
Once you’ve amassed knowledge, test it! Udemy quizzes and courses were fantastic for solidifying my learning in cybersecurity. Organisations like Cisco with their free, Skills for All program, were also instrumental. Their courses helped me grasp networking concepts, a crucial skill in any tech career.

Lessons Learned on the Tech Trail

My journey is far from over, but the lessons I’ve learned so far continue to guide me:

  1. Embrace Lifelong Learning: The tech landscape is constantly evolving, so the ability to learn and adapt is crucial.
  2. The Power of Network: Building connections with others in the field is invaluable. You can’t do it alone.
  3. Strong Foundations Matter: A solid understanding of core principles is essential for building expertise.
  4. Embrace Change: Don’t be afraid to pivot or adjust your goals as you learn and grow.
  5. Stay Curious: The tech world is vast and ever-changing. Maintain an open mind and a thirst for knowledge.

Empowering the Next Generation

My journey wasn’t solely about personal growth. Acceptance into the Women Techstars fellowship by Tech4Dev Cybersecurity training provided a platform to connect with other passionate women in the field. We formed a strong study group, fueled by late nights and a shared determination to excel. These “sisters for life” provided invaluable support, especially during the intense preparation for professional certifications.
But the most rewarding experience came full circle. Returning to my alma mater, I had the opportunity to speak with young girls about the exciting world of tech. This experience was particularly impactful, as I envisioned myself in their shoes, yearning for the kind of early exposure that could have ignited my passion for tech years earlier.

Hearing their aspirations – dreams of becoming computer analysts and knowing they are already learning Linux– filled me with immense pride. It was a powerful reminder that mentorship and community building are instrumental in shaping the future generation of tech leaders.

The Power of Networks

The power of networking extends far beyond professional connections. During this period, a chance encounter with a peer blossomed into an incredible mentorship opportunity. This experience highlighted the importance of building genuine connections within the tech community – you never know where they might lead.

The Adventure Continues

Today, I’m no longer the hesitant individual who doubted her ability to enter the tech world. Every day brings new learning opportunities, a supportive community of peers, and a constant drive to expand my knowledge.

The World is Your Playground

Don’t let self-doubt hold you back! The tech industry offers a wealth of opportunities for those who are willing to learn and grow. Focus on your long-term goals, but be discerning when presented with new opportunities. Choose those that align with your vision and propel you forward on your unique tech adventure.
This journey took another exciting turn when I was chosen as a cybersecurity class representative. It was a testament to the strides I’d made and a reminder to keep pushing my boundaries and embracing new challenges.

Conclusion

My journey from the world of finance into cybersecurity is a testament to the power of self-belief and the transformative potential of stepping outside your comfort zone. This path wasn’t always easy, but the challenges I faced only fueled my determination and helped me discover a hidden passion.
The tech industry is a dynamic landscape, brimming with possibilities for those who are curious and willing to learn. If you’re considering a career change or simply yearning for a new challenge, don’t let fear hold you back. Embrace the journey, hone your skills, and connect with others in the field. The tech world awaits, and with dedication and a touch of courage, you can carve your unique path to success.
Remember, the one who can stop you is you! So, go out there and make a difference. Your story can inspire others to embark on their journeys in tech. You have the power to make a difference. So, what are you waiting for? Start today!

5 Comments

  1. Emmaculate Thiga

    This is inspirational Kerubo🥺, super proud of you girl and I can’t wait to hear and see what more you gonna offer to this world…clearly we can achieve anything we set our mind to. Here to always cheer you on🙌👏

    Reply
  2. Caroline Kinyanjui

    This is exactly the motivation I needed today! Your journey is proof that with determination and a willingness to learn, anything is possible. Thank you for the reminder to embrace the journey and not let fear hold me back.

    Reply
  3. Oluwatobi

    This article is quite precise, educational and directional. None of that “God did it for me” type of success story.
    I like how detailed she was in her journey, the ups and downs and the personal battles she had to fight, how she overcame. Very eye-opening, expectation-managing and encouraging. Thank you

    Reply
  4. Caroline Kinyanjui

    Your story is so empowering! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like we’re not capable of change, but you’ve shown that with dedication and courage, we can achieve our dreams. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Reply
  5. Chisom Udeh

    This is amazing, interesting and inspiring work, well done 👏👏

    Reply

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